Planning – Town and Open Space

Report
Supported by a grant from the Wellborn Ecology Fund
Why should towns plan to address
natural resources and systems?
Because your town depends
upon its environment.
Your citizens need clean water, healthy soil,
clear air, open lands, abundant wildlife and a
pleasing natural environment.
Nature’s Value
 Natural systems provide “green
infrastructure” or “environmental services”
that are often not recognized because they
are “free,” at least until you lose them.
 Most drinking water in Vermont is not
treated to make it drinkable, because Nature
has already done so.
 Soil, rain and sunlight provide the basis for
our food and wood for building and heat.
Nature’s Value
 Natural resources are valuable to your
residents
 Natural resources and ecosystems are an
economic engine
 Natural resources are part of the excellent
quality of life in Vermont
Your town depends upon clean water
 Groundwater - private wells
and many public wells rely
upon clean groundwater for
drinking and for commercial
activities.
 Surface water – Recreational
business, your citizens and
wildlife rely upon clean surface
water.
Wetlands are…
 Areas that are inundated by surface or
ground water often enough that they serve
as habitat for plants and animals that need
saturated soil at least part of the year,
allowing them to grow and reproduce.
 Commonly known as ponds, bogs, fens,
marshes, wet meadows, shrub swamps, and
wooded swamps.
Wetland Classes
 A Class I wetland:
 is identified on the Vermont significant wetlands inventory
maps as a Class I wetland; or
 has exceptional or irreplaceable contribution to Vermont's
natural heritage.
 A Class II wetland:
 is identified on the Vermont significant wetlands inventory
maps as a Class II wetland; or
 merits protection, based on an evaluation of the extent to
which the wetland serves the functions and values set forth in
state law.
 A Class III wetland is a wetland that is neither a Class I nor
a Class II wetland.
Wetlands provide….
 Many valuable and irreplaceable functions
that benefit the public:
 Surface and ground water quality maintenance
 Flood water storage and erosion control
 Threatened and endangered species habitat
 Open space, recreation and educational
opportunities
 Fish and wildlife habitat
Wetlands facts
 In Vermont, only 220,000 acres (4% of the land
area in the state) have been identified as wetlands
on the National Wetlands Inventory Maps.
 ANR estimates that an additional 80,000 acres of
wetlands exist in Vermont that have yet to be
identified.
 More than 35% of the original wetlands in
Vermont have been lost. Development is now the
primary cause of wetland loss.
 State NWI maps are being updated and it is much
easier now for towns to improve the state maps
through local mapping.
Riparian Buffers are:
 Strips of grass, shrubs and trees along the
banks of rivers and streams.
 The single-most effective protection for our
water resources in Vermont.
 Regulate stream flow.
 Stabilize stream banks and beds.
 Filter out sediment and pollution from
runoff.
 Provide wildlife and aquatic habitat.
 Provide recreation and improve aesthetic
values.
Your town depends upon clean soil
 You depend upon food, and farmers and gardeners
depend upon healthy, fertile and uncontaminated
soil to grow that food.
 Trees and other vegetation
depend upon adequate soil,
and wildlife depends upon
the vegetation for food and
shelter.
 Humans depend upon healthy forests for fiber
and fuel.
Forests
Vermont's forests are valuable ecologically,
economically and socially.
Covering 75 % of the state, forests provide:
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jobs
clear water
stability to the landscape
biological diversity
 scenic vistas
 wildlife habitats
 diverse recreational
opportunities
Beneficial Forests
 Our clean air and water are in large part due
to the filtering effects of trees above and
below ground.
 Forests provide food, fuel and fiber.
 Forests create soil, cycle nutrients,
sequester carbon and filter the air.
 Forests provide diverse habitat for plant and
animal life.
 Forests reduce the effects of drought, floods
and severe wind.
Your town depends upon wildlife
 Outdoor recreation such as fishing
and hunting depends upon wildlife.
 Wildlife such as hornets, swallows and bats
control insect pests.
 Wildlife such as bees and wasps pollinate plants,
including crops.
 Your residents and visitors enjoy bird watching
and viewing other wildlife.
Forest Habitat
 Contiguous forest habitat supports the biological
requirements of many plants and animals;
 Large tracts of forest supports viable populations
of wide-ranging animals by providing travel
corridors for genetic exchange and allowing access
to important feeding and reproductive habitat.
Forest Fragmentation
 Gaps in forests and barriers to wildlife movement
created by roads and associated development.
 Disrupts natural connections between habitats
that are essential for the movement, and
ultimately the survival, of many species of large,
wide-ranging carnivores such as black bears,
bobcats, and fishers.
 Can lead to increased predation, invasive species,
and vulnerability to natural disturbances.
 The smaller the habitat patch, the smaller the
number of species that can occupy that habitat.
 Even small mammals such as mice and shrews are
adverse to crossing roads or paths just a few feet
wide.
Your town depends upon clean air
 Citizens need clean air
for their health.
 Trees and plants need
clean air to flourish.
 Buildings need clean air to last longer.
 Industry needs clean air to avoid costly regulation.
Why should towns plan to address
natural resources and systems?
Because Vermont’s planning
statute requires and
encourages it!
What planning tools can towns use
to address natural resources and
systems?
1. TOWN PLAN
 24 VSA 4381
 A comprehensive
planning program to
prepare, maintain and
implement a plan that
may be consistent with
the goals in Section 4302.
2. OPEN SPACE PLAN
 24 VSA 4432(3)
 A plan to support the
Town Plan “to guide
public and private
conservation strategies”
Where to begin? The Town Plan
 The Town Plan is the tool that:
 communities can use to provide background
information on the ecological value of wildlife and
natural systems.
 allows communities to set policies on protection of
valued natural resources which form the basis for
regulatory standards in bylaws.
 includes inventories and maps of natural resources.
Town Plan Requirements
Town Plans must address 10 different elements (24
VSA 4382) including at least the following three items:
1.
“ a statement of objectives, policies and programs of the
municipality . . . to protect the environment.”
2. “ a land use plan, consisting of a map and statement of
present and prospective land uses, indicating those areas
for forests, . . . and open spaces reserved for flood plain,
wetland protection, or other conservation purposes.”
3. “a statement of policies on the preservation of rare and
irreplaceable natural areas, scenic and historic features
and resources.
Town Plan Requirements
1.
“ a statement of objectives, policies and programs of
the municipality . . . to protect the environment.”
 Example: It is a policy of
the town to support the
active use and management of forest lands by
private landowners.
 Example: It is a policy of the town to protect steep
slopes and ridgelines from inappropriately sited
development.
Town Plan Requirements
2. “a land use plan, consisting of a map and statement of
present and prospective land uses, indicating those areas
for forests, . . . and open spaces reserved for flood plain,
wetland protection, or other conservation purposes.”
 A development constraints map can be used when
developing the Future Land Use Map. This map can
show wetlands, steep areas, good or poor septic soils,
prime farmland, deeryards, Natural Heritage Areas.
 The Future Land Use Map is best used to define
future districts.
Constraints and Resources Map
Future
Land Use
Map
Town Plan Requirements
3. “a statement of policies on the preservation of rare
and irreplaceable natural areas, scenic and historic
features and resources.”
 Example Wetland Policy: Structural development or intensive
land uses shall not be located in significant wetlands or
within buffer zones (contiguous areas with a significant
wetland that serve to protect those values and functions
sought to be preserved by its designation) to significant
wetlands.
 Example Wildlife Habitat Policy: Development other than
isolated houses and camps shall be designed so as to preserve
continuous areas of wildlife habitat. Fragmentation of wildlife
habitat is discouraged. Effort shall be made to maintain
connecting links between such areas.
Towns are encouraged to plan for
natural resources.
Town Plans may be consistent with the goals in
24 VSA section 4302.
 “to plan development so as to maintain Vermont’s historic
settlement pattern of compact village and urban centers
separated by rural countryside.”
 “to identify, protect and preserve important natural
features of the Vermont landscape, including significant
natural and fragile areas; outstanding water resources,
including lakes, rivers, aquifers, shorelands and wetlands;
and significant scenic roads, waterways and views.”
 “to maintain and improve the quality of air, water wildlife
and land resources.”
Addressing the Goals in 4302
 Proposed land use plans can create differences in
development density, for example:
 village/town centers
 rural areas and
 conservation areas.
 Special studies recommended in the Plan can call for:
 inventories of priority natural resources
 open space planning and protection.
What is Open Space?
 Land without structures in service, usually in its natural state.
 May be part of the working landscape for agriculture or
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forestry use.
May serve place-making, aesthetic, cultural, or resource
protection functions.
May have historic or recreational structures not limited by
their size (although size may be an important consideration).
May allow for appropriate access to natural areas.
Permits unorganized recreation opportunities such as
hiking rather than more organized recreational opportunities
that use public facilities such as town maintained recreational
fields.
These lands are what most residents agree make your town the
great place it is today.
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What does an Open Space Plan do?
 Identifies resources
 Informs development applicants
about town policies
 Ensures individual land conservation
meets overall plan
Content of an Open Space Plan
 Definition
 Purpose
 Inventory (natural, cultural, pristine, built)
 History
 Benefits
 Themes
 Areas
 Goals and Strategies from Public Process
 Short and long term conservation priorities
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Plan Specificity
Molgano decision Act 250 town plan/zoning tests
 start with town plan-> too vague
 then zoning-> too vague
 Ignore both
JAM Golf LLC decision
 regulations in South Burlington struck down due to
lack of specificity
 Open Space Plan can help JAM proof your
bylaw/plan
E-Notes – http://www.nrb.state.vt.us/lup/publications.htm#enote
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Defining “rural character”
Examples
 Sparsely populated countryside marked by
open fields and a working landscape.
 Village center that is tightly clustered with
minimal setbacks and a mix of uses.
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Protecting “rural character”
 If your goal is to preserve open space or protect critical
natural habitat, then your plan needs to outline how
that might be done and using what tools.
 Examples:
 Minimize critical wildlife habitat impacts
 Numeric/certification based requirements
 Five lots or more requires a natural communities study
completed by an experienced ecologist
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Future Land Use Areas
 Include a purpose statement.
 Explain the types of uses that are
appropriate for maintaining the area’s
purpose.
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Open Space Plan Data
 Habitat Block Priority and Connectivity
 Town Natural Community Mapping
 Scenic Road Inventory
 Views/Gateway Inventory
 Hikes/loops on roads
 Special Places
 Historic/Cultural (barn/cellar hole inventory)
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How are Open Space Plans used in
Development Review?
 Triggered by subdivision application
 Plat cross-referenced with plan inventory
 If meets/overlaps forwarded to Conservation
Commission
 Site walk with Conservation Commission and
applicant
 Develops recommendations, forwards to DRB
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Voluntary Natural Resource Protection
Opportunities
 Education
 Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program
(USDA)
 Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program, Farm
& Ranchland Protection Program (NRCS)
 DEC River Management Corridor Easements
 Current Use Ag. & Forest
 Land Trusts (Upper Valley LT, Vermont LT),
Orange County Headwaters, Taylor Valley
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Resources
PUBLICATIONS
Chittenden County Natural Areas Planning Guide, Chittenden County RPC, September 2009.
Conserving Vermont’s Natural Heritage, Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, 2004.
http://www.vtfishandwildlife.com/library/Reports_and_Documents/Conserving_Vermonts_Natural_Heritage/Cover.pdf
Practical Ecology, Dan Perlman & Jeffrey Milder, 2005.
Implementation Manual, http://www.vpic.info/pubs/implementation/
Woodland ,Wildland, Wetland, http://www.vtfishandwildlife.com/books.cfm?libbase_=Wetland,Woodland,Wildland
Websites
Native Plants - http://www.wildflower.org/collections/collection.php?collection=VT
Bylaws - http://www.vtfishandwildlife.com/cwp_zoning.cfm
Natural Resources Contacts
HABITAT
Jens Hilke, Conservation Planning Biologist
Vermont Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, Barre, Vermont, (802) 476-0126 [email protected]
RIPARIAN BUFFERS
Mike Kline, Fluvial Geomorphologist, River Management Program
Vermont DEC, Waterbury, Vermont, (802) 241-3774 [email protected]
WETLANDS
Rebecca Chalmers, Wetlands Ecologist
Vermont DEC, Barre, Vermont, (802) 476-2678 [email protected]
WILDLIFE
Forrest Hammond, Wildlife Biologist
Vermont Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, Springfield, Vermont, (802) 885-8832
[email protected]
Kim Royar, Wildlife Biologist
Vermont Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, Springfield, Vermont, (802) 885-8831 [email protected]
NATURAL COMMUNITIES Eric Sorenson, Ecologist, Non-Game & Natural Heritage Program
Vermont Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, Waterbury, Vermont, (802) 241-3714 [email protected]
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Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department (2004)

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